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The Feel Good Factor in Licensing

Barry McLaughlin from Barry & Jason shares the fun in licensing.

License Global

December 12, 2023

4 Min Read
Barry & Jason with Okay Genius, Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment
Barry & Jason with Okay GeniusBarry & Jason Games and Entertainment

Do you like games? Because Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment LOVE ’em! So, when the folks at License Global asked us to be guest editors for December’s issue, we saw this as an opportunity to share some of the cool new games, trends and people we’ve encountered lately in the game world. As a bonus game, how many times do you think the word “game” shows up in this issue? I got 212. 

I should mention that we are party game inventors, so our point of view comes from that area of expertise, but we still have an eye on games of all forms. In fact, whenever we travel to a new city, we always challenge each other to an arcade decathlon. It’s serious business! Speaking of serious business, the party games category is still hot. If you’ve been to Walmart, Target or Barnes & Noble recently, you’ll notice that the party game selection is large and in charge, with fun licenses like “Yellowstone,” “Ted Lasso,” “Scream” and “Tetris.” (Have you seen the “Tetris” movie? Who knew licensing could be so dangerous!) 

One thing we’ve noticed here is that there do seem to be fewer licensed games than a couple years ago, when the shelves were stuffed full of every license imaginable. If that’s a pendulum swing, then we’re probably on track for another big year of licensed games in 2025, when both buyers and customers are again asking for games related to properties they know and love. In any case, good licenses on solid game play always have a shot at big success. 

Another swing of the pendulum relates to games that rely on “judging,” with retail buyers cooling on these in favor of games with unique mechanics, like Wavelength, Codenames, Tapple, TAGIE winner, Boop and our very own collaboration with PlayMonster, Okay, Genius. In Cards Against Humanity news, that team has just released their first (yes, first!) follow-up game called Head Trip. We’re excited to take that trip and see what fun they’ve cooked up! 

The Exploding Kittens team just launched their first line of creative games for younger kids, with fantastic art (of course) and fun themes. 

Positivity in games is a growing trend, as some inventors look to help bring joy and good vibes to the masses, like You Think You Know Me from Pink Tiger Games, Mind the Gap from Solid Roots and Game Night in a Can, our own collaboration with Goliath. The results are in … people like to feel good! 

We’re also seeing some companies focus on game play outside of the box with more experiential offerings. Hasbro looks to be leading the pack here, with “Monopoly Lifesized” in London, the “Clue Walking Mystery Experience” in Chicago by the creative duo, Wild Optimists, and the new competitive sport, Nerfball, answering the age-old question, “What’s next for blasters and balls?” 

Environmental Impact is an area of the games industry that needs a lot of improvement. Thankfully the big players, like Mattel, Hasbro and Spin Master, all have recycling programs for used toys, as well as commitments to using significantly less single-use plastic. Surprisingly, many games are still wrapped in plastic! Big Potato has done some good in this area, from planting a tree for every game sold to even making a deck of cards created from repurposed ocean plastic. In general, we would love to see more companies make sustainability a bigger part of their plan. 

One other area of extreme growth is murder mysteries and escape rooms in a box. Unlike a few years ago, now you can’t throw a magnifying glass without hitting one of these games! 

For those wanting to enter the world of tabletop and party games, there are now plenty of teachers and resources available to help get you on your way. The Toy Coach, Azhelle Wade, hosts a great podcast and runs the Toy Creators Academy, and inventor duo, April Mitchell and Ed Gartin, teach a multi-class workshop as well. Both are fantastic options and all wonderful people. Mary Couzin’s People of Play is a helpful resource for inventor articles, meet-ups and conferences, and Mojo Nation is an awesome organization out of the U.K. for both the inventor and licensing circles. 

As for us, not only do we have more party games on the way, but we have also jumped head-first into the entertainment world, in front of camera with our Ellen DeGeneres collaboration, “Best Games For Blank,” and behind the scenes developing game shows with BBC Studios and others. We love games in all their delicious forms! 

Please make sure to let us know after you’ve counted every “game” mentioned in this issue. We’ll be patiently waiting by the phone!

Barry McLaughlin is co-owner of Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment, along with partner Jason Lautenschleger. Based in Los Angeles, they invent and license party games, develop game shows and host comedic shows and segments. They also emcee live events and game nights, as well as coach and consult people and organizations in games, invention and creativity. For entertainment projects, they are repped by Cat Carson at CAA, and for games, they are always open for a conversation

This article was taken from the December 2023 issue of License Global.

About the Author(s)

License Global

License Global is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content including news, trends, analysis, and special reports about the global consumer product and retail marketplace.

Through its print edition, website, daily e-newsletter and event publications, License Global reaches more than 150,000 executives and professionals in all major markets. The magazine also serves as the official publication for the sector’s trade events, which include Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan, Licensing Expo Shanghai and the Licensing Leadership Summit.

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